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Law: Who leads the Red Sox next won’t matter if the team refuses to spend

Law: Who leads the Red Sox next won’t matter if the team refuses to spend

Getting fired is just part of the business of sports. If you want to work in the industry, you have to make peace with the idea that you can be fired at virtually any time, and sometimes due to circumstances beyond your control: a key player gets hurt, a promising rebuild doesn’t work out. Outside, your owner is an egomaniac, something normal.

Chaim Bloom’s tenure as Red Sox president of baseball operations ended Thursday after four years, with one playoff appearance, two last-place finishes and a 73-72 record this year that has them far behind the three contenders in the American League East Division. Bloom’s major league moves have been mixed, but the team’s offense is a strength and they have a very strong group of position player prospects in the upper minors. If he was fired for on-field reasons, it’s because of the pitching, and a lot of why the pitching has been bad goes back to the regime before Bloom took over, and the sudden conversion of Red Sox ownership to religion. of poor crying. .

What’s gone wrong for Boston this year seems pretty easy to diagnose: They’ve allowed too many runs. They have 4.88 runs allowed per game on the day of Bloom’s firing, which ranks 12th in the American League, well below the median and average, and they are surrounded by non-contenders, even behind the Tigers, who lost to two holders. to injuries since you started reading this article. Even with Brayan Bello’s advancement, their starters still rank 12th in ERA and 13th in fWAR in the American League, while their relief corps is 10th in ERA but fifth in fWAR because they’ve pitched more innings than any other bullpen. except Oakland: 596. so far, more than four innings per game.

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The team entered the year planning to compete, or at least saying they planned to, with a rotation that included two guys converting from reliever to starter (Kutter Crawford, who has been very good, and Garrett Whitlock, who is back in relief). ), two guys whose arms Lloyd’s of London wouldn’t insure at any price (Chris Sale, who started the year on the disabled list, and James Paxton, who will finish it there), and a pitcher who has never been able to get lefties out ( Tanner Houck). They brought back Nick Pivetta on a one-year deal to get some depth, but had to demote him to relief in mid-May. Bello and Crawford have been bright spots, but those two guys are not a contending rotation, and I don’t think it was reasonable for the Red Sox to think that group of seven starters was going to produce above-average work for them.

How did they get to that point? Bloom’s predecessor, Dave Dombrowski, brought the team a World Championship in 2018, but the process undermined much of the long-term pitching and saddled the club with some bad contracts. The trade for Chris Sale worked in the short term, but the decision to sign him to a five-year extension in March 2019 has been a bust, as he blew out his elbow that same year and has pitched just 135 innings since starting the season. extension. for 2020, with one year and 27.5 million dollars left. That same deal also cost the team Michael Kopech, who also had Tommy John after the trade but has pitched increasingly more effectively than Sale since both returned to the mound in 2021.

Chris Sale has made 28 starts over the past four seasons. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today)

Bloom inherited a roster with a healthy and effective starter under contract in 2020, Nate Eovaldi, who was actually pretty bad in 2019 but gave the team 7 WAR over the next three years of his contract before leaving as a free agent. He traded two replacement-level relievers for Nick Pivetta in the pandemic summer, and since the deal he has earned 7 WAR from the righty between the rotation and the bullpen, perhaps Bloom’s best move by results, although whoever was responsible for catching to Garrett Whitlock on The 2020 Rule 5 Draft Deserves a Big Raise. He signed Michael Wacha to a one-year, $7 million deal, getting 3+ WAR for it, and signed Martín Pérez to a pair of one-year deals, getting two credible seasons of innings.

These are all big moves on the margins, signing or trading for back-end starter types to build a rotation or provide volume to the bullpen, but at no point did Bloom, or the owners, go out looking for a big-time starter in free agency. . , or trade for one, and the farm system hasn’t produced pitchers either, even though it continues to produce position players and will continue to do so. Over the last three years, combined, only three Boston pitchers have generated 3+ rWAR in a season: Eovaldi in 2021 (4.3), Wacha in 2022 (3.3) and Bello this year (3.8 to date). Pivetta is the only other Boston starter in that span who even had a 2 WAR season. The Sox have been lacking top-level starters, period, and it’s hard to deal with that kind of run prevention problem even if you score a lot of runs.

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The farm system has improved dramatically this year, with a strong draft in July, a big step forward for last year’s second-round pick Roman Anthony, and some breakouts or smaller returns from other position players in the system. . However, they had no pitchers in the system who projected as more than fifth starters in the majors when I ranked their prospects in February, and that remains true.

It seems like a clear strategy choice from the top, as they took only one pitcher in the first three rounds with Bloom overseeing baseball operations and didn’t give any pitcher more than $600,000 as bonuses, while in international free agency, they followed what same. philosophy, with $450,000 the most they gave any pitcher in the last three classes. Pitchers are riskier as a class, of course, with elbow injury rates at or near all-time highs, but you can’t just send out an Iron Mike and hope for the best.

That said, several of Bloom’s most notable decisions haven’t worked out. The $105 million commitment to Masataka Yoshida has produced 0.7 fWAR, as he has been one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball this year and has not maintained his offensive performance after an early-season hitting streak; He’s hit just .251/.281/.396 in the second half and the Red Sox have been giving him more and more days off, sitting him against lefties like Framber Valdez and Julio Urías. Stories last winter and spring of Boston outbidding other teams by $20 million or more cannot have helped Bloom’s cause.

Letting Xander Bogaerts go has seemed like a smart decision so far, as Bogaerts is having his worst year since 2017, but the signing of Trevor Story has also been a disaster between injuries and poor performances at the plate, and he is under contract for four years further. . It’s fair to say that ownership likely limited Bloom’s ability to go out and improve the team’s pitching while also saying that his biggest moves as a free agent haven’t worked out. (The deal with Mookie Betts is itself, and I think Bloom had to take a big discount on the return because everyone knew he had to deal with Betts.)

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But that’s it for big free agents, which contradicts the way John Henry & Co. have run the Red Sox since they first acquired the team twenty years ago. There are only two players on Boston’s roster this year who were signed as free agents to two-year deals, Yoshida and Story. They haven’t swam in the deep end of the free agent pool since Bloom got the job, and have been more interested in cutting salary, trading Mookie Betts rather than signing him to an extension, which I have to say hasn’t worked. In Boston’s favor, they maintain a payroll proportional to their income or their own spending history. Blaming Bloom or O’Halloran for the sudden asceticism of this group of very well-off property owners seems pointless. This Red Sox team could have been a lot better if they had gone out and spent some money on pitchers.

The direction they take from here will tell us a lot about the owners’ commitment to winning. They could stay in-house with a candidate like vice president of scouting Mike Rikard, who was director of scouting when the team drafted Triston Casas, Jarren Duran, Kutter Crawford, Andrew Benintendi and Tanner Houck; or executive vice president/assistant general manager Eddie Romero, who was the team’s international director when they signed or agreed to sign Rafael Devers, Yoan Moncada, Bryan Mata, Ceddanne Rafaela and Brayan Bello. Both are long-time Red Sox executives with strong track records in evaluation and leadership, and each oversaw a major department for several years during their tenures.

They could turn to someone like James Click, who was once Bloom’s colleague in Tampa, but who in the meantime was the Astros’ general manager and led them to a World Series win just a year ago. Or they could try to recycle a famous name to make headlines and win the offseason, so to speak, which might work if it also meant loosening the purse strings so they can get some starting pitching, but it would also mean to me that Nos we take less seriously the long-term contest, which is where this team sat during the Theo Epstein era and quite a few years beyond.

They’re the Boston Bleeping Red Sox and it’s time they start acting like it again.

(Photo: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)



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